Estates woman gets house arrest, probation for stealing from employer

SSRI Ed note: Woman takes antidepressants, steals from her employer to cover shortfall in expenses.

Original article no longer available

Naples Daily News

It was the first time in the history of the Economic Crimes Unit that a defendant paid restitution before pleading

NAPLES ­ A 31-year-old Golden Gate Estates woman who embezzled nearly $72,000 from a title company was sentenced to house arrest and probation after reimbursing her employer.

The restitution payment by Shannon DelReal was the first time in the history of the Collier County Economic Crimes Unit that a defendant fully paid up before sentencing, Assistant State Attorney James Molenaar told Circuit Court Judge Fred Hardt on Monday.

“We request that the court take that into consideration,” Molenaar said of himself and retired Assistant State Attorney Jerry Brock, who handled the case before retiring several weeks ago.

Hardt imposed two years of house arrest, followed by eight years of probation for scheme to defraud more than $50,000, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in a state prison. The prosecution had never offered a plea bargain.

“You’re lucky you had Mr. (Jeffrey) Quinn represent you,” Hardt said of DelReal’s defense attorney, who had urged the judge to impose probation, not a prison term. Hardt said he imposed the term after hearing that the victim didn’t mind that DelReal wouldn’t go to prison.

Under house arrest, DelReal will be subject to curfews and must keep a log of all her activities for two years.

DelReal had pleaded no contest on July 28 and gave up her state license to be a title services employee. Hardt held off sentencing until he could review a presentence investigation by the state Department of Corrections, which lists aggravating and mitigating factors in DelReal’s background. She had no prior criminal record.

She paid Mary Ellen Brennan, who owns Title Services of Collier County, $76,000, more than the $71,674.13 she stole, due to legal and other costs Brennan incurred from the problems caused by the theft. DelReal’s father gave his daughter the money and she’s paying him back.

DelReal was a trusted employee for four years when Brennan began hearing rumors that she’d set up her own title company. Brennan checked the state corporation Web site and fired DelReal after confronting her. DelReal left with four employees and lured away more by badmouthing Brennan, Brennan said.

Court records show DelReal embezzled from Brennan between Jan. 1, 2006, and July 1, 2007.

State records show that on May 29, 2007, DelReal incorporated Title Acquisitions and Title LLC, under the name Del Real, on Strand Boulevard, and resigned from Title Services of Collier County on Nov. 28, when other officers in her company took over. Court records show that only days before incorporating, on May 16, 2007, she and her husband, Erick, were served with foreclosure papers on their home.

After firing DelReal, Brennan said she had an audit conducted and learned she’d embezzled to pay her new company’s startup costs. Knowing she was being investigated, DelReal turned herself in Oct. 15, when she posted bond.

DelReal didn’t mention startup costs in court Monday, but she and her attorney contended she got in over her head with bills and medical costs for her two sons, 11 and 14 ­ both have ADHD and one has Asberger’s Syndrome ­ so she stole money. She also said she’d been taking antidepressants for some time.

Quinn asked the judge for leniency, pointing out that DelReal came to him to fix what she’d done before Collier County sheriff’s deputies arrested her. DelReal apologized, but Brennan wasn’t in court to hear it.

“There really is no excuse for my actions,” DelReal said, crying as her husband sat in court just feet away. “I was living above my means. … I’m so sorry. I know the decision I made will follow me for the rest of my life.”